Making a Claim After Your South Carolina Car Accident
When you’re in a car accident, it’s like a record scratch for your life. Everything you were going to do and your normal routine? Those go out the window. This is especially true if you’re injured. But there’s a lot of nuance in the situation that you may not be aware of.
Ask yourself these questions, and you’ll have a better idea of what can happen, what should happen, and the steps you can take to try and ensure you’re treated fairly and can focus on getting your life back on track.
Whose Insurance Pays in South Carolina?
When someone causes a car accident in South Carolina, insurance policies come into play. But which ones? Usually, the at-fault driver’s policy is the one that most people think comes first – but that assumes that the driver was driving their own vehicle. If that’s not the case, the policy on the car comes first – even if it belongs to someone else! So, policy on the car comes first, then policy on the driver (if it is not their car), and so on. For simplicity’s sake, as you read on, we will be referring to the at-fault driver.
Question 1: How Do You Know You’re Injured, and What Should You Do?
There are obvious injuries in a car accident, of course, and serious injuries likely require emergency medical care, an ambulance ride, and even a hospital stay. But what about the injuries that aren’t always immediately obvious, like whiplash? The symptoms of some injuries can take time to appear.
For example, let’s say you were rear-ended. At the scene you feel a little stiff but otherwise ok. The police make a report and so on. But a day or two later – maybe even a week or two later, you have trouble sleeping or getting comfortable. Your back or neck are hurting in a way you haven’t experienced before.
Seek a Medical Evaluation as Soon as Possible
Whether it’s at the emergency room or your general practice physician, it’s a good idea to get an evaluation as soon as you can after your accident. They may notice swelling, reduced range of motion, or other symptoms that aren’t immediately apparent to you. After-accident adrenaline can mask a lot of ailments.
The benefits of seeking medical treatment after a car accident are plentiful:
- The sooner you start treating an injury, the sooner you can begin to recover.
- Early treatment could reduce the pain and discomfort you suffer in the long run.
- Immediate care for an injury could reduce the chance of complications from an untreated injury.
- Documenting the care you receive is important for your claim for potential compensation.
The Effect of Seeking Medical Care on Your Claim
Prompt evaluation after an accident can create a record that you were concerned about injury. If an injury is discovered, this can also begin a record of treatment. Remember that the idea of a claim for compensation is to try and make you whole – to try and reimburse you for what the wreck cost you. If you’re not receiving care, the insurance company may not see anything that requires reimbursing.
Tip #1: Seeking care after an accident can create a record of treatment.
Question 2: What Evidence Do You Have About the Wreck?
Few people realize that as an injured person in a car accident, the burden of proof for a car accident claim of potential compensation is actually on you! That doesn’t mean you need to be a detective. It just means you need to be aware of what’s going on, understand the role of the police and insurance company, and know what to ask for. This is something a South Carolina car accident attorney can help you with.
Compile Your Evidence
The accident report is a good start, but if your condition allows, you should take as many pictures and notes about the accident and the scene as possible. This includes road conditions, and as much detail as you can remember about what happened. This is especially important in terms of trying to determine fault.
Tip #2: Records of your treatment are evidence of your injury, and may support your claim for potential compensation.
In South Carolina, there is a doctrine of comparative negligence. It essentially means that any potential compensation you receive from the wreck is reduced by your amount of responsibility for it. If you’re deemed more than 50% responsible, you are barred from seeking compensation! Some insurance companies may try to assign as much blame to you as possible, so it’s important to have evidence supporting your version of events. Again, we encourage you to consult with an attorney, as not doing so can have a negative impact on your claim for potential compensation!
Tip #3: If you haven’t already, don’t talk to the at-fault driver’s insurance company without speaking to an attorney first.
Mind What You Say – and How You Say It – to Insurance Adjusters
As much as you feel that an insurance adjuster is friendly, they work for the insurance company. Part of their job is to help the company pay as little as possible. They’ll ask a lot of questions, and they might even ask for a recorded statement. We suggest that you limit what you say and refuse to give a recorded statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In fact, you may be better off not talking to the at-fault driver’s insurance company much at all. An experienced attorney can handle these conversations for you.
The Effect of Evidence and Records on Your Claim
The more evidence you can compile, and the more fault you can prove on the part of the driver who caused the accident, the stronger your car accident claim can be. Remember, it’s not just proving who was at fault, but how much fault that person bears. What you say to an insurance adjuster could be used – even out of context – to reduce the insurance company’s offer of compensation.
Question 3: What Is Your South Carolina Car Accident Claim Worth?
Everyone wants to know what their injury claim is potentially worth. The answer, like every car accident injury case, is unique. It depends on what harms and losses you suffered. An experienced car accident injury lawyer can help find harms and losses you suffered and appropriately evaluate your claim.
Additionally, what is and is not compensable is defined by law.
Calculating the Value of Your South Carolina Injury Claim
There are two types of “damages” that you can suffer, and therefore that you can seek compensation for: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages are the real financial damages you suffer due to the accident/injury. These basically have a “dollar amount” that can be assigned to them. Also known as “compensatory damages,” these have a clear financial value, and can include:
- Damage to your property
- Medical bills resulting from the injury you sustained (including future costs, medications, etc.)
- Lost wages from work missed due to your injury
- Other injury-related expenses
These are actual costs that could come out of your pocket. Even things like mileage traveled to receive treatment, modifications to your home or car due to disability resulting from your injury, and so on, can be compensable.
Tip #4: Every bill you incur for care relating to your injury should be kept. The more thoroughly you document the injury and the costs you incur, the stronger your claim for potential compensation could be.
Non-Economic Damages are the intangible losses you suffer. These do not have an absolute or defined value, and can include:
- Pain and suffering (both physical and mental)
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
- Other damages
That’s a lot to unpack. South Carolina Law helps to determine the value of non-economic damages, but there is a great deal of flexibility in how value is assigned. You may believe it’s worth a certain amount and the at-fault driver and their insurance company are likely going to argue it is worth appreciably less. An attorney experienced in South Carolina car accident claims can help you build your case and support your claim as best as possible.
Tip #5: An experienced car accident injury attorney knows how to interpret the law and apply it to your unique circumstance. Our firm will evaluate your case at no charge.
South Carolina’s Collateral Source Rule
There is another rule in South Carolina that may affect what you can and cannot claim.
The “Collateral Source” Rule: In South Carolina, the law states that your damages from the wrongdoer may not be reduced by compensation received from independent third party sources – your health insurance, for example.
Damage Caps in South Carolina
Depending on the circumstances and facts of the car wreck, you may be able to recover punitive damages. Generally speaking, punitive damages in South Carolina are capped. The cap is expressed as three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. There are exceptions to this cap, and you should consult with an attorney for more information and to find out if the circumstances of your unique case trigger those exceptions.
The Effect Experienced Valuation Can Have on Your Claim
Knowing what you can potentially be compensated for can make a huge difference in what compensation you seek. Many people don’t know what they can seek, or don’t think of what an injury is really costing them. Car accident injury attorneys can often show clients what an injury really costs, including hidden costs and expenses that may come down the road. We can help you seek fair compensation you may be entitled to.
Question 4: How Do You Actually Make a Claim?
You can ask the insurance company for compensation, and submit your evidence, bills, etc., to them. That often ends up in a denial or a negotiation – and many insurance adjusters are trained negotiators. You can also get an experienced attorney to handle this claims process for you. An attorney can advise you of your options if an insurance company denies your claim or does not make a fair offer based on the facts of your claim.
Always keep originals of documents you send to anyone! If you have any questions or feel you’re not being treated fairly, do not hesitate to call an attorney.
What If the Insurance Policy Doesn’t Cover My Harms and Losses?
If the total of all involved insurance policy limits are not adequate to cover the harms and losses you have suffered, you may need to seek the difference directly from the defendant. This is a complicated process, and we highly recommend consulting an attorney.
The Effect of Contacting an Attorney on Your Claim
Even if you do not hire an attorney, having one evaluate your case may give you a general idea of its strength. Once hired, an experienced attorney can try to find all potential sources of compensation and knows how to go about seeking it. No attorney can promise to get you more, but attorneys often give injured people more ways to seek compensation than they know of on their own.
Question 5: How Can the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Help You?
When you’re hurt and bills are piling up, you don’t want to wait for years for compensation. Likewise, you do not want to settle for a small amount only to find out your financial losses are far greater than expected. Our approach, therefore, is to help our clients seek as much as possible as quickly as possible.
We have teams of professionals dedicated to helping clients and trying to move cases as efficiently as possible, trying to do things the right way, right away. We keep you in the loop and give you all of the information you need to make the best decision for yourself and your family. And we work on a contingency fee,2 so there is no out of pocket cost for you to hire us.
Call us right now at 866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation. Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of an insurance company and its professional negotiators, and don’t settle for less than you may deserve simply because you didn’t know what to ask for. Don’t be afraid: tell them you mean business!